(Day two of the Five Day Poetry Challenge. Again, this is a new poem.)
Her fingers bleed; the stones
are buried deep,
tangled in roots of long-dead trees,
and clotted with soil better meant
for green growing things:
the sweetness of apples, the golden riches of grain,
the root vegetables that grew below the surface.
Each drop of blood that seeps from her flesh
into the soil waters it, nurtures the ground,
adds richness to the dark loam that
yields its stony crop to her untiring labor.
She bends herself to the task for days,
cutting the trees down,
letting woodsmen drag them away
to save the wood for the hearths
of the folk when winter returned;
the roots themselves she tears out of the ground,
casting them aside, slowly
reducing forest to fertile field.
Above, the sun: its fire rains down,
bringing its heat to the land below,
summoning from within her
the rain of sweat spangling her brow.
About her, bees hover in a halo,
fanning her with the cool breeze of their wings.
Relentless, she works, sparing no time
for food or drink or rest; her strength flags not,
but day by day her frame dwindles
as her body’s substance burns away
in the fierce flame of her will to finish her task.
A day will come, she knows,
when every stone and every root would be removed,
every spring unblocked, every stream cleared,
and then at last her people could till the land,
sowing there the seeds that would let them
lay away the fruits of that first planting,
and thus, survive the cold to come.
The morn she draws that last stone from the land
comes at long last;
she casts it aside to the oxen yoked to the chariot
to drag it away for the walls the farmers built
to hedge in the boundaries of the fields,
and with a final sigh, falls insensate to the ground.
She knows that, all too soon,
her flesh will belong to the soil, too,
taken apart my rain and worms and the roots of green growing things,
and then in one more way,
she will help to feed her people.